As Bea Constantino puts it, the homegrown brand’s first pop-up is a space for and by cultural storytellers.
A huge selfie mirror with the words “taga-saan ka?” written on its upper left corner stands in the middle of Studio Süg’s first pop-up store at the Power Plant Mall. Obviously, it stands there to allow customers to see themselves in the brand’s colorful garments and intricate textiles.
However, as brand founder and creative director Bea Constantino puts it, the mirror and its inviting question encapsulate the spirit of Studio Süg—so much so that the phrase even finds itself in patches, bags, shirts, and novelty stickers that are also available in-store.
“We wanted to start and continue the conversation on roots, culture, and heritage. In Philippine culture, these types of exchanges typically begin with the question: ‘taga-saan ka?’” shares the creative director, noting that cultural storytelling is at the core of her homegrown brand.
With Studio Süg, Constantino answers her selfie mirror’s question with a creative response inspired by her roots: Sulu and Zamboanga. Through garments like their signature Victoria Jacket, a bomber piece decked with weaves from her homeland; and colorful palettes that take inspiration from the vibrant vinta, Constantino presents how storytelling and retail can be combined to shape contemporary Filipino fashion and culture.
Coinciding with the brand’s pop-up debut is the launch of the Anuling Collection, inspired by heritage stories and created by the need for reconnection. “The collection is for the individual who dresses mindfully, who appreciates an inspiring narrative about culture and heritage. It’s for anyone who appreciates the value of slow living and self-care,” Constantino explains.
Conceptualization for the collection began around the first quarter of the year. The designer admits that it was a time when she felt “a season of deep disconnect” with herself, her roots, identity, and purpose.
It took around two years before the brand founder was able to return to Zamboanga and Sulu, where she reestablished her ties with her community and identity.
“It dawned on me that being Chavacano/Tausug does not fade just because [I’ve been separated from Mindanao for quite some time.] It will always be a part of who I am,” she shares.
It was also during this trip that Constantino had these moments of inspiration for her biggest collection yet—a series that could honor her past and keep the conversations on culture running at present. She shares that the word “heirloom” came out of nowhere as she thought of ideas.
“[Beyond material things like jewelry or time-honored weapons,] I realized that the most valuable gift our ancestors left us is Anuling, a vast farmland shared by the current generation where we gather when we are at home. It is a place that always makes me feel instant belongingness everytime I set foot on the flat meadows,” says the creative director.
Ancestors of their clan first settled into Anuling in Patikul, Sulu in the late 1880s. It has since been entrusted to the five generations that have grown in the family. For Constantino, Anuling is a special place that holds stories of the past–its heritage, secrets, milestones, and traditions—and where her most recent collection came to life.
Studio Süg anchors on the idea of slow tropical living–everywhere. For Constantino, there is no place like Anuling to live out this ideal. “We dream of a slow and easy day walking along the meadows of Sulu. This is the feeling of rootedness that we wanted our customers to experience.”
The landscapes and emotions associated with Anuling come to life through earth tones incorporated in most of the garments, especially the shirts with yellow checkered panels and cultural embroidery. Constantino also showcases Sulu’s regal aesthetic and Tausug culture—represented by gold, brass, and weaponry—through electric pleats, details with shine and sparkle, and signature bold hues.
Moreover, the brand explored braiding weaves and textile retaso (excess or scrap fabric)—all while upholding and being mindful of the customs that surround each particular weave or texture—to portray the seascapes of the South. Previously, the brand had always used ruffles to depict the waves of ocean currents. “In Tausug, sug means water current. [This is where] our brand is named after,” Constantino explains.
The design team deliberately took it upon themselves to elevate the use of local textiles and weaves for the Anuling collection.“We started the brand at a time when local textiles, from our limited perspective, and weaves offered that pleasant surprise factor when used in everyday or casual wear. [As we see it now,] local textiles and weaves have become more accessible.”
Studio Süg sees this shift as a good sign: it means that there are more livelihood opportunities for textile and weaving communities in Mindanao. It also presents a call to arms for design houses to embark on a new direction and mindset that resonate with today’s mindful consumer.
“We challenged ourselves to create designs that utilize weaves in an elevated and more intentional way, instead of the past simplified integration of the said fabrics.”
Through Studio Süg, Constantino also honors the stories and wisdom of the artisans and weavers that the brand works with. “There is so much to learn from our weavers. While I see our working relationship as an exchange of ideas, I find myself learning a lot from them,” the creative director notes.
Noting how each thread and textile carries a significant cultural narrative—from myths and legends to nature and community stories, Constantino likens our local weaves to history books.
“It’s important for us to bring our textiles to the forefront. If we don’t preserve our traditional culture, what then can connect us to our rich and storied past? In a way, weaves are like a blueprint of what came before us and how we can move forward,” she notes.
Studio Süg’s first pop-up in Rockwell not only represents a vibrant community and culture from the South; it is also, in itself, a creative collaboration with like-minded artisans. The designs of Sulu-based fashion designer Mir Tawasil of Bayt Almawda—which translates to “house of fashion”—call the pop-up home.
“Mir is an up-and-coming designer from Sulu, a cultural storyteller, and a family friend,” Constantino explains. “[When we thought of the pop-up,] we thought, ‘hey, let’s all come together! We’re like-minded people, so let’s collaborate, not compete.’ After all, it’s through collaboration that community begins.”
As Tawasil explains in this interview, the collection evokes the influence of Islamic-Indo-Malay culture on Sulu’s artistic heritage. In-store, Tawasil’s buttoned shirts and oversized jackets draw inspiration from Tausug cultural elements like the Ukkil (wood carvings), and the Pis Syabit (Tausug woven fabric with patterns that usually depict mountains, seas, and fishing culture).
In a way, this is the Sulu-based designer’s own creative response to Constantino’s selfie mirror question: “taga-saan ka?” It runs in line with the brand’s core mission: to tell cultural stories from an authentic point of view.
“We’re now in our sixth year as a brand, and we’ve spent the first five years telling our story—who we are and what we do. Right now is where the real work begins: keeping the conversation going through the brand and the clothes while, of course, creating authentically,” Constantino concludes.
Experience the Studio Süg Pop Up Space until August 28 at the Power Plant Mall. Follow the brand on Instagram at @studiosug.